Casebook: Development Control Casebook - Mixed use at former military site fails to secure approval

Lawful development certificates for the use of a running track at former military headquarters in west London for sports events, fetes, trade fairs and shows have been denied after an inspector decided that the creation of a separate planning unit last year ceased to provide the uses with immunity from enforcement action.

The appellants, who had agreed to acquire the site from the government in 1999, claimed that the running track had been used for non-military purposes for approximately 20 years. Citing Newbury District Council v Secretary of State for the Environment (1977), they maintained that any material change of use that occurred during the period when the track was Crown land became lawful under section 191(2)(a) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

This position did not change after the site ceased to be Crown land in 2003, the appellants asserted. They also pointed out that the site had been used for holding fairs, including staging London Fashion Week. They claimed that these events had also acquired immunity while the land was vested in the Crown and argued that a certificate should also be issued to cover them.

The inspector decided that military use of the running track and sports field had been abandoned after 2003. In accordance with Panton & Farmer v Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions and Vale of White Horse District Council (1999), he concluded that the abandonment of the military use and the creation of a separate planning unit meant that previous lawful use rights had been lost.

He also decided that each annual fair involved a new event in the planning history of the site. The erection of marquees involved a fresh building operation requiring planning permission, he ruled, also finding that because they did not remain on the land for more than four years on any one occasion they were not immune from enforcement. In that light, he reasoned, any use that depended on the marquees could not be lawful.

DCS No: 37107293; Inspector: Richard Tamplin; Inquiry.

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